As we approached the final corner we had left our attack too late, a harsh lesson to learn. There were only 3 other tandems with us and this my first race had been hard. As I leaned in following Adam my pilots lead, the bike straightened up with the speed out of the corner and the sprint was on, we could still get a second place on the first stage of the Dutch Tandem Trophy. I knew what was coming and I was ready, after 2 hours of pushing hard on the pedals I have no choice but to get out the saddle and push as hard as I could until we crossed the finish line. It was going to be more than painful, my legs were empty or that’s what my brain was trying to tell me, but I wasn’t listening. Today they had to give me more! We had started well with a 3rd place in the mornings Prologue and the only bike behind us now were the World Champions, a strong hard riding Polish duo.
As Adam made his move out the saddle I followed, the bike thrown left to right as we tried to produce maximum power driving the tandem closer to the line. I glance up in a split second and we are gaining on the Dutch tandem, I drive harder, we work in complete unison and the tandem creeks with the torque we are putting through it, but something’s wrong! My left leg locks with cramp, followed by the right leg on the next pedal stoke. Adams eyes focused on the finish line and the Dutch in front, he drives even harder, he is in his element, but the smooth powerful pedal stokes break down as my legs are now just rods of iron. On the next left down stroke my shoe unclips from the pedal and hits the rough surface of the road and drags, ripping into the leather of my shoe. Before I can think my right leg hits the frame and flips me off the bike. I hit the road hard and at speed, my left shoulder and hip take the impact ripping the thin lycra skinsuit and then my flesh. As a tumble and slide to a halt less than 50 metres from the finish line which Adam crosses alone.
As I lay on my back looking up at the clear blue sky my mind is blank, it’s all happened to fast for my brain to compute. The only pain I feel is my legs, still locked ridged and screaming at me. Archie my old coach appears in my limited field of vision, he is here supporting the Welsh tandem but his face isn’t the happy smiling one I’m use to seeing. He asks if I’m okay, and I reply “yes, but my fucking legs won’t move! I’ve got cramp.” My mind catches up, I feel a hot pain in my elbow and my hip. Archie asks if I can get up and cross the finish line? He’s right, we haven’t finished until we both cross the line. I try to stand, my legs dead and not listening to me, I struggle and get angry. Archie try’s to help me back to my feet. I’m upright and stagger towards the line, my legs slowly release their iron grip with a few steps, I see 2 tandems sprinting each other to the line and Adam in front of me having turned around to come a get me. As I limp past the clapping crowds behind the barriers I block out the pain and cross the line. I’m furious with myself and my body for letting Adam down, I swear repeatedly in anger. I’m embarrassed with myself for showing weakness.
As I remove my broken helmet Adam cracks a joke and smiles, it breaks my anger, I smile then laugh, what the fuck just happened? With my nose bleeding I look at the bloody lump on my elbow now poking through the ripped hole in my skinsuit. Now the jokes start and I feel foolish again, Tom my coach double checks I’m okay before joking about not liking the British racing suits, I’m gutted I only have one of these amazing looking suits and I’ve just ripped it to bits…… I’m taken to a first aid tent for a team to look me over, I have cuts and road rash on both shoulders, my left hip stings as they clean it with an alcohol wipe. My right calf looks like a cat has sharpened its claws on it, but my elbow is giving me the most pain. As I joke with the 3 first aiders one of them replies in broken English ‘shit happenings!” I laugh agreeing ‘shit happenings!”
I hobble out of the tent and back to our British Cycling set up to get on the turbo and spin my legs out, I’m greeted by the girls who have won their race with the support from their team mates. It’s great news and a great start to the tour.
My first race hadn’t quite panned out the way I would have hoped, however looking back now it’s a hell of a story and I laugh to myself when I think how funny it must have looked Adam crossing the line on his own. I was very lucky not to break anything or pull Adam off the bike too. The following day I climbed back on the tandem, we finished second in the time trial and then went on to lap the field including the world champions in the final stage before riding away from the rest of the field in the last lap the finish on our own, winning our first stage and putting us as overall winners of the Dutch Tandem Trophy.